Growth has come quickly to Music on the Mesa — propelled by the musical talent that’s now on stage after just three years.
This year’s lineup is top heavy. It requires six headliners — two each on June 2, 3 and 4. They keep Taos Mesa Brewery hoppin’ the whole time. In fact, music is nonstop on the three stages at the venue out by the airport, a fact of which the promoters are very proud.
“You can ‘surf’ among the three stages and always find music playing,” founder Stephen Plyler of Walking Rain Productions says. “It’s our tightest festival so far, the music never stops.”
New this year is a vintage trailer park called Hotel Luna Mystico. Alongside rustic overnight camping sites will be Airstreams, converted school buses and other wheeled accommodations that can be rented for the night.
Word of the festival has gotten around, and those who attend Music on the Mesa reap the benefits. It takes less to convince top acts to join Taos Valley’s happenin’ music scene, says Plyler, and the list of those who want to return continues to grow.
“Bands want to be heard and seen in the best light,” he says. “That way, they can be the talent that they are. And they rely upon us to help them make that happen.”
Plyler points to the first Music on the Mesa in 2015 where the organizers’ commitment to a band’s comfort took hold. They treated headliner Lucinda Williams just as she wanted to be treated — even found a house for her to chill out in for a couple of days — and word got around the agent community. Right afterwards, Plyler got calls from agents who wanted to explore booking their bands.
“That really helped us grow the festival, it opened doors for us to the top performers,” he says. “Plus, we are so fortunate to have Taos; a community that will support a good show.”
Whereas the first two festivals focused on singer-songwriters and “personal music,” this year’s lineup will be the most diverse group of bands yet. Headliners include Railroad Earth, Rising Appalachia, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Drew Emmitt and members of Leftover Salmon, The Cheese Dusters (made from String Cheese Incident and The Infamous Stringdusters), Elephant Revival and The California Honeydrops.
Among Taos longtime familiars will be country outlaw Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock and singer-songwriter James McMurtry. The festival organizers also tip their hat to the thriving local music scene with Last to Know, Chris Arrelano and Ry Taylor getting gigs.
“We’ve taken the gauntlet that was laid down by Michael Herne and others, and we’ve run with it,” says Plyler, giving ‘props to the length and depth of Taos’ musical tradition. “They all should be credited with laying the groundwork for what we are doing now.”
Music on the Mesa has grown so quickly that Plyler has called upon other local promoters to help out. Like A Boss, which books Taos Mesa Brewery, has become an equal partner with Walking Rain, while Roots & Wires is helping out on a limited basis.
And, each has brought in bands that they know and love.
‘It’s never about who gets the credit,” says Plyler. “Rather, it’s about putting on the best festival and the best music for Taos as humanly possible. We have 12 bands, each of which would have headlined the first Music on the Mesa.”
Internally, Plyler says there is a formal management team in place — a first for the festival — to keep a grip on the burgeoning list of tasks: “We never want to be overwhelmed. We prepared for growth, and now it’s here and we are ready. The team is made up of promoters and managers who love music and love Taos.”
And they all share a simple credo: “If it’s good and entertaining, then we want it here.”